Fight to keep heart unit that saved Harry’s life

Hayley Carter with Harry.                                  Photo: Roger Nadal.
Hayley Carter with Harry. Photo: Roger Nadal.

AFTER Harry Carter collapsed with an undiagnosed heart condition when he was just nine days old, he was taken from Sheffield for surgery in Leeds.

A specialist ambulance carried him from Sheffield Children’s Hospital, where staff had spent six hours stabilising him for the one-hour journey.

The operation was successful, and now Harry, aged nine months, is thriving.

But parents Hayley and David believe that if the journey had been any longer, he would probably have not survived - which is why they are supporting the campaign to keep open the children’s heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

“In Sheffield we only had the provisional diagnosis of what was wrong,” said first time mother Hayley, aged 32, of Norton Lees. “They said we would have to get Leeds to get it confirmed and then they would be able to carry out the emergency surgery he needed.

“That’s why it was so important that it was close by and he could get the specialist treatment he needed so quickly. If he’d had to go to Newcastle, he probably wouldn’t have survived the journey.”

Sheffield Children’s Hospital does not carry out heart surgery, and the Leeds unit, the only one in Yorkshire, is threatened with closure in the government review of children’s heart surgery services. If it is shut, South Yorkshire families will have to take their children to Newcastle or Liverpool for surgery.

Harry underwent emergency surgery to remove a blockage in his aorta and spent two weeks in intensive care repairing the damage caused to his tiny body as a result of his blood supply being cut off.

Hayley, a communications manager, said: “We left for the hospital that day in a complete mad panic and didn’t return home again for two weeks.

“But because we were only in Leeds it meant it was easier for people to drop by with things and also to see us and offer support. That wouldn’t have been possible if they’d had to travel to Liverpool or Newcastle or Birmingham.”

She said staff at the unit were absolutely fantastic and the on-site midwifery services were a huge help in keeping her well, as she had only given birth nine days before.

Harry will need another operation, but there appears to be no lasting damage from the frightening events.

“He should not have survived,” said Hayley, “but thanks to the Leeds unit and the staff there he did.

“He will always be a heart patient and it would be so nice if his check-ups and any further surgery could take place in Leeds.”

An online petition calling on the Government to keep the unit open has more than 100,000 signatures. A public meeting opposing the proposed move will be held at the Royal Armouries in Leeds on May 10.